VACAVILLE, California -- The I-Team's Dan Noyes confronts an East Bay school bus driver, caught on video in a violent incident with an 8-year-old autistic girl. The bus driver is now facing a criminal prosecution and that video is central to the case.
The girl's parents don't want to be interviewed; seeing that video was just too traumatic. But, they gave it to the I-Team for this report because they want answers about what happened -- and about the school district's training and oversight -- as they prepare to file a lawsuit.
That ride on a Tuesday morning in February began with a stern warning from 64-year-old Vacaville school bus driver Kim Klopson, after an 8-year-old girl with autism temporarily blocked the aisle with her leg.
Klopson told the girl, "And if you stick your feet out again to keep her from moving, you are going to be on the window. Got it?"
It escalated after the bus arrived at Browns Valley Elementary in Vacaville and the special needs students began to file off. Klopson wanted the little girl to remain seated.
The video shows Klopson confronting the girl, "Because you're misbehaving, as always it sounds like to me. (Klopson grabs her backpack) No, mine, mine. You did not do what you were supposed to, now sit down and you can have it back. (child cries) Nope."
Three minutes later, a staff member comes to get the girl, but she's still upset. The bus driver taunts her.
"'Cause ___'s acting like she's younger than her baby sister," said Klopson. "Oh, ___'s only 2, how old are you? One, oh no, a baby."
Then, Klopson gets even more physical, saying, "You might think you can get away with this, but not on my bus, now you ready? Let's go. (pulls her) Let's go, yeah."
The girl hits her head on the floor and the struggle continues for more than a minute -- the staff member just standing there.
"Okay, so I get to do that again? Help you sit up? (she yanks her up, throws her on the seat) Get up. (throws her down again) You wanna crawl, you can crawl."
Then, the driver closes the door, saying, "Okay, we'll be right there. (door closes) Okay, you done?"
The family's lawyer calls that false imprisonment.
"She's trapping her there so she can continue to be violent with her and to reprimand her and to yell at her," says Micha Star Liberty.
The teacher's aide walked away. For three-and-a-half more minutes, Klopson and the girl are alone. She rips off her jacket.
"Nah nah nah nah nah," the driver taunts the girl. "You done? (girl crying) Nah nah nah nah nah."
Klopson tries to force the backpack on.
Girl: "I don't like you."
Driver: "I don't like you."
Girl: "Please stop it. I don't want to. Stop it."
Driver: "No, I'm not gonna stop it."
Girl: "Stop it, please!"
She finally opens the door. The staff member helps the girl off the bus. Klopson notices she has drawn a crowd.
"It's okay (shouting), I didn't hurt her guys," said Klopson. "I mean you're all like-- It's okay. Bye ___, I'll see you after school. That should be interesting."
Vacaville Unified fired Klopson after the incident. She now faces a criminal charge of "cruelty to child by inflicting injury" and has pleaded "not guilty".
Stephen Brotzman, Autism Society Board Member, told Dan Noyes, "It's absolutely horrifying. This woman has no business driving a special needs bus."
After we showed him the video, Brotzman is demanding answers from the school district.
"Where was the training for this person?" says Brotzman. "Why is she driving a special needs bus when clearly she has no clue and she doesn't know how to handle this situation?"
The I-Team tried to question School Superintendent Jane Shamieh after a public event last week, about the training and oversight of her school bus drivers.
Dan Noyes: "Can you talk to me about that?"
Jane Shamieh: "No, I can't. I'm sorry."
Dan Noyes: "Even later?"
A spokesperson later texted saying no one from the district would talk because of the on-going criminal case.
Dan Noyes told Kim Klopson that her surveillance video has been provided to the I-Team.
"It shouldn't have been," said Klopson. "So, they'll make a great big deal about that."
She declined to comment further: "I can't say anything until I talk to my lawyer."
Klopson's attorney did not return our calls.
School bus driver faces child abuse charge after incident involving girl with autism caught on video
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